Sunday, January 29, 2017

2016-17 NFL playoff predictions (Part 4 - Super Bowl)

The Super Bowl approaches! After duels a-plenty, the final showdown is set for Super Bowl 51 in Houston:

New England Patriots vs. Atlanta Falcons

This match-up has all the works for an exciting showdown. The Falcons haven't won a Super Bowl, and haven't played in the title game since their first and only appearance in 1999, when they lost 34-19 to the Denver Broncos. The Patriots have finally returned to the Super Bowl for the first time in two years.


How the Patriots reached the Super Bowl

The Patriots enjoyed huge success in the regular season, going 14-2 and easily earning a first-round bye in the playoffs. Their only losses this season were to the Buffalo Bills and the Seattle Seahawks.With the exception of the two losses, the Patriots have dominated all season and through the playoffs, beginning with a 34-16 Divisional round win over the Houston Texans and then a 36-17 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Patriots want another Super Bowl ring now.


How the Patriots can win the Super Bowl

The Patriots defense needs to show up big time. Atlanta has, without question, the deadliest offense in the league. The Patriots must not allow Matt Ryan time to make plays, or else the Falcons will easily make first downs and find the end zone. New England demonstrated their offensive capabilities this season, obliterating nearly all opposition. Brady's passing game will post the points, with support from the rushing unit when needed. New England needs a strong performance on all fronts if they hope to neutralize the Falcons.


How the Falcons reached the Super Bowl

The Falcons finished second overall in the NFC, their record of 11-5 bested by the 13-3 Dallas Cowboys. Despite their record, the Falcons have proven to be an near-unstoppable force, consistently posting 30 or even 40-plus points on the board. In the playoffs, the Falcons destroyed all opposition, pummeling the Seattle Seahawks 36-20 and then annihilating the Green Bay Packers 44-21. The Falcons are eager for their first Super Bowl win.


How the Falcons can win the Super Bowl

Score lots of points! If only it were that simple. Of course Matt Ryan will count on Julio Jones and the rest of his deadly offense to score, that much is certain. The Falcons defense will face its toughest test of the season; Tom Brady and the Patriots will never give up without a fight. Brady wants his fifth ring, and the Falcons are the only remaining obstacle. Force Brady to make costly mistakes, and the Falcons will run up the score incredibly quickly.


I expect a high-scoring affair, with touchdowns galore from Brady and Ryan. Defense, however, will ensure neither team turns this into a lop-sided affair. It will be a fight to the brink, but only one will stand this day.

And it will be New England.

Patriots win, 35-31

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

2016-17 NFL playoff predictions (Part 3 - Championship)

As each day passes, the Super Bowl draws nearer! But first, the AFC/NFC Championship games. Here are the following potential Super Bowl match-ups:

New England Patriots vs Green Bay Packers
Pittsburgh Steelers vs Green Bay Packers
New England Patriots vs Atlanta Falcons
Pittsburgh Steelers vs Atlanta Falcons

But who will win the day? Which teams will stamp their tickets to Super Bowl 51 in Houston? Let's take a look!

Thunderbirds101's picks


#1 New England Patriots vs #3 Pittsburgh Steelers
Whatever happens, we're going to have a Super Bowl featuring either Tom Brady or Ben Roethlisberger. Gee, that hasn't happened before (2002, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2008, 2009, 2011, 2015, and now 2017).

The Steelers escaped with an 18-16 win over the Chiefs; the Steelers kicked six field goals and managed to survive after a costly holding penalty on a Chiefs two-point conversion attempt. The Steelers cannot hope to win if they kick only field goals. Not against New England. The Patriots will unleash all their heavy artillery to neutralize the Steelers. Unless the Steelers can reach the endzone, this game will be over in a hurry.

Likewise, New England cannot make any costly mistakes. No fumbles or interceptions, or Pittsburgh will swiftly capitalize on the blunders of the opposition.

I don't expect a blowout, but the Patriots will sneak away with this one.

Prediction: Patriots win, 31-27.
Result: Patriots win, 36-17.

T-Bird's comments after the game:
I suppose nineteen points is a blowout. Either way, another decisive Patriots win! The Steelers couldn't get anything done offensively; costly turnovers did not help matters. The Patriots, meanwhile, posted another 30-plus points, demonstrating once again their strength. With the victory, the New England Patriots returns to the Super Bowl once again, this time to face the Atlanta Falcons.



#2 Atlanta Falcons vs #5 Green Bay Packers

Also known as Aaron Rodgers vs Matt Ryan. The two most explosive offenses in the NFC will clash in a duel of the fates. Do not expect defense to be a highlight on this day; this will be a high-scoring shootout with touchdown after touchdown. Only question is, who will prevail? Matt Ryan leads the deadliest offense in the league, but Aaron Rodgers leads an unstoppable Packers team that has constantly posted 30-plus points a game since their December 11 game against the Seahawks. An unstoppable force meets another unstoppable force. But only one shall emerge victorious this day: Green Bay.

Prediction: Packers win, 41-38.

Result: Falcons win, 44-21.

T-Bird's comments after the game:
We turn now to live footage of the Green Bay Packers:
That was not a duel; that was total domination by the Falcons! Big mistakes by the Packers, including a missed field goal, a fumble, an interception, you name it! As expected, the Falcons launched all their heavy artillery and blitzed the Packers defense; unexpectedly, the Packers offense sputtered and crashed, scoring nothing in the first half. The Falcons advance to Super Bowl 51 in Houston!

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

2016-17 NFL playoff predictions (Part 2 - Divisional)

Welcome to part two of Thunderbirds101's NFL playoff predictions! Four for four on the picks in the Wild Card; let's hope the Divisional picks are as successful!

Let's get this done and dusted.

Thunderbirds101's picks


#1 New England Patriots vs #4 Houston Texans
After a first-round bye, the Patriots enter the playoffs all guns blazing on a seven-game winning streak. In their one meeting back in September, the Patriots routed the Texans 27-0. The Texans have a potent defense, but it will be a daunting challenge to overcome one of the most elite teams in the league. The Texans were fortunate to face the battered Raiders in the Wild Card - they will not be so fortunate again.

Prediction: Patriots win, 41-10.
Result: Patriots win, 34-16.

T-Bird's comments after the game:
A decisive Patriots win, despite interceptions and fumbles. Both teams made costly turnovers, but the Patriots ensured their artillery overwhelmed the Texans. Overall, no surprises with this game.


#2 Kansas City Chiefs vs #3 Pittsburgh Steelers
Back in October the Chiefs were routed by the Steelers, 43-14. It was the Chiefs' worst performance of the season, but that was at Heinz Field. Now Pittsburgh must fight this time at Arrowhead Stadium. The Chiefs, however, have not won a playoff game at home since 1994 in a 27-24 overtime win over the Steelers. A spirited duel awaits.

Prediction: Steelers win, 35-31.

Result: Steelers win, 18-16.

T-Bird's comments after the game:
A spirited duel, but not as high-scoring as I anticipated. The holding call on the Chiefs' two-point conversion attempt was brutal; one penalty smothered the Chiefs' hopes of staying alive. Alas, the Steelers advance, and now the stage is set for a battle royale in Foxborough.



#1 Dallas Cowboys vs #5 Green Bay Packers

After a rout of the Giants, the Packers move on to face the top team in the NFC. The Packers must ensure their O-line isn't shredded like it was early on against the Giants. As long as Aaron Rodgers has room to maneuver, the scores will pile on fast. As for Dallas, they must ensure their wide receivers don't have butter fingers like the Giants. Simple, really.

Prediction: Packers win, 38-27.

Result: Packers win, 34-31.

T-Bird's comments after the game:
I was going to post explosion GIFs, given how poorly Dallas began the game, but this is a more accurate GIF, given what happened:

What a game! Green Bay opened the game in complete control, all guns blazing, but Dallas fought back hard and tied the game - twice! Unfortunately for the Cowboys, the Packers scored a last-second field goal and neutralized the top-ranked team in the NFC. Green Bay's victory sets them up for a NFC Championship showdown at Georgia Dome.

#2 Atlanta Falcons vs #3 Seattle Seahawks
After a decisive victory over the Lions, the Seahawks head on to the road to face the Falcons. The Falcons have the most explosive offense in the league, but their defense has repeatedly given up 30-plus points in several regular season games. Seattle's primary weakness will - as always - be the offensive line. It held strong against the Lions - will it hold against the Falcons?

Prediction: Seahawks win, 28-24.

Result: Falcons win, 36-20.

T-Bird's comments after the game:

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

2016-17 NFL playoff predictions (Part 1 - Wild Card)

Another year passes. So comes the time for another round of NFL playoff predictions! This post will focus on the Wild Card games; future posts will predict the outcomes of the Divisional and Championship games, and eventually the Super Bowl.

Let's roll.

Thunderbirds101's picks


#6 Miami Dolphins vs #3 Pittsburgh Steelers
The Steelers enter the playoffs on a seven-game winning streak. Opposite the Steelers are the Dolphins, the latter of which opened the season with a dismal 1-4 record, but then won nine of their next eleven games, including a 30-15 takedown of Pittsburgh.

However, the Dolphins have lost players to injuries, including starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill. The Dolphins haven't won a playoff game since a 23-17 OT Wild Card win over the Indianapolis Colts back in 2000. The Steelers, meanwhile, are roaring into the playoffs.

Steelers win, 27-17.

Steelers win, 30-12.

T-Bird's comments after the game:
No surprises here. Costly turnovers decimated any hope of a Dolphins victory. The Steelers have punched their ticket to a showdown with the Chiefs.


#4 Houston Texans vs #5 Oakland Raiders 

Both these teams enter the playoffs following a loss. The Texans have been inconsistent all season, whereas the Raiders finished their strong 12-win season with their worst offensive performance all year, posting a measly six points on the board. The Raiders must use rookie quarterback Connor Cook because Derek Carr and Matt McGloin, their respective first- and second-string quarterbacks, have been sidelined with injuries.

With the core of Oakland's heavy artillery sidelined, the 12-4 record looks misleading. Derek Carr spearheaded the team's wins over the season, and without him, Oakland faces a daunting task.

But that's not to say Houston will see great playoff success either, if they win. If the Steelers win and the Raiders lose, then the Texans face just a slight challenge.

The Patriots.

In Foxborough.

Good luck with that.

Texans win, 17-13.

Texans win, 27-14.

T-Bird's comments after the game:
The Raiders' 12-4 record was definitely misleading entering the playoffs. Without Derek Carr, the Raiders could not endure the vicious Texans defense. Connor Cook threw three costly interceptions, whereas Brock Osweiler threw none. A solid win, but can Texas maintain this momentum against New England?



#3 Seattle Seahawks vs #6 Detroit Lions

What's the deal with the Seahawks? How is it that a team that takes down New England and Atlanta then loses to Tampa Bay and Arizona? Earl Thomas's absence has sent shockwaves through the Seattle defense, surrendering points all across the board in recent games. Still, the Lions aren't much better, having limped into the playoffs on a three-game losing streak. The Lions will put up a spirited fight, but it won't be enough.

Seahawks win, 24-16.

Seahawks win, 26-6.

T-Bird's comments after the game:

A decisive victory for the Seahawks! Seattle turns up with a strong defense, solid offense, incredible one-handed catches, bizarre butt catches, and stolen touchdown catches! Truly the ingredients for a playoff victory! Seattle moves on to face Atlanta in the Divisional round.


#4 New York Giants vs #5 Green Bay Packers

The Packers enter the playoffs having gone on a six-game winning streak, complete with four straight games of scoring 30-plus points. The Packers will have all artillery on deck to counter Eli Manning and shred the Giants' defense. Still, the Giants are a formidable foe. Twice this season have the Giants defeated the NFC-leading Dallas Cowboys. The Giants have never allowed 30 or more points a game this season, but neither have they scored 30 or more points. The Giants also lost 23-16 to Green Bay in the regular season, albeit back in October. This will be a well-fought duel.

Whether the vicious Wisconsin cold plays a factor remains to be seen.

Packers win, 27-24.

Packers win, 38-13.

T-Bird's comments after the game:
We turn now to live footage of the New York Giants: